As mentioned in previous articles, tooth decay is extremely common in children. In fact, it is the number one chronic childhood disease. Decay can happen for a number of reasons, including poor hygiene, consumption of too many sugary foods and drinks, and a lack of routine visits to the dental office. The good news is that tooth decay can be easily prevented. One of the best ways to prevent cavities and decay is by having your dentist apply sealants to your child’s teeth.
A dental sealant is a plastic coating that is applied to the chewing surfaces of the teeth in the back of the mouth (premolars and molars). These are the teeth that are most prone to decay. The sealant acts as a barrier between the teeth and any food or beverage it comes in contact with. Sugars and carbohydrates fuel tooth decay, so the sealant helps in preventing sugary foods from getting stuck in the grooves of the teeth.
The process to apply sealants is quick and easy:
- First, your dentist or hygienist will prepare the teeth for sealants by thoroughly cleaning them
- The sealant material is then painted directly onto the tooth enamel of each premolar and molar
- The sealant bonds and hardens to the tooth’s surface with the help of a special curating light
Sealants can typically last for up to 10 years, but can be easily replaced if they were to be chipped or worn down. Your dentist will check for this at every appointment and replace them as needed.
Children as young as 6 years of age are great candidates for dental sealants, as it is beneficial to have them applied to permanent molars as soon as they grow in. In many cases, your dentist might suggest sealants for baby teeth as well as permanent teeth. This helps in keeping your child’s mouth healthy as he or she develops and can prevent baby teeth from falling out too early.
It’s a good idea to begin preventing tooth decay as early as possible. Schedule routine check-ups for your child as soon as their baby teeth start growing in, and ask your dentist about how soon your child might be eligible for dental sealants.